Cherokee Cave

The Lost Caves of St. Louis

Useful Information

Location: Beneath the area of Broadway and I-55 in south St. Louis. I 55 to Broadway, follow that to Cherokee Street. Turn west on Cherokee one block and then right onto Demenil Place.
Open: n/a
Fee: n/a
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave SubterraneaCellar ExplainLost Caves
Light: n/a
Dimension: n/a
Guided tours: n/a
Bibliography: (1964): Cherokee Cave, St. Louis, Missouri, Missouri Speleology, Volume VI, Number 3. July 1964.
(1964): Bats/Cherokee Cave, Missouri Speleology, Volume VI, Number 4. October 1964.
Hubert Rother, Charlotte Rother (1964): The Lost Caves of St. Louis,
J. Harlen Bretz (1956): Caves of Missouri, Missouri Geological Survey and Water Resources.
(2018): History of the Lemp Brewery Caverns & Cherokee Cave, Missouri Speleology, The Journal of the Missouri Speleological Survey, Volume 58, 2018, 53pp, 35 pictures, map. online
Address: n/a
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1840 William J. Lemp's Western Brewery founded by Adam Lemp.
1862 Adam Lemp died and his son William J. Lemp became the new owner.
1945 Lee Hess purchased the ground and made the caves a tourist attraction.
1950 opened to the public.
1961 purchased by the Missouri Highway department to clear the way for Interstate 55.
1964 museum and cave entrance were demolished and the cave was filled.


The entire city of St. Louis is built upon a huge and complex system of natural caves. Most of them are closed to the public today. A part of this huge system is Cherokee Cave.

Cherokee Cave is a former beer cellar of William J. Lemp's Western Brewery. It also played a role in the Underground Railroad, the escape route for slaves before and during civil war. archaeological findings of man and animals make it even more interesting. The name is a reference to the Cherokee Indians, which are known as cave living people. William J. Lemp's Western Brewery was the largest brewery in St. Louis at the end of the 19th century. It was founded by Adam Lemp. The original location was on Second Street near Elm. His son, William J. Lemp, built a new brewery at Cherokee and 13th Streets. A good reason for this site was Cherokee Cave, as it provided a natural cooling cellar for the beer. The brewery prospered and grew, and became one of two principal breweries in St. Louis and a major producer on a national scale. It was closed by prohibition and never reopened. The plant today belongs to Interco, Inc., a shoe warehouse.

The tradition about Cherokee Cave describes many entrances and underground labyriths which were part of the Underground Railroad, the escape route for slaves before and during civil war. For example a tunnel behind the house at 3314 Lemp provided a secret entrance to Cherokee Cave. At least one entrance to Cherokee Cave was near the Mississippi River, where slaves could hope to escape to freedom in Illinois.

It seems, the Lemp family was a little eccentric. They used part of the caves by constructing a swimming pool, a ball room and a vaudeville theater inside. It is said, they are still intact today.

In 1945 Lee Hess, a rich pharmaceutical manufacturer purchased the ground above Cherokee Cave and the nearby Minnehaha Brewery. He developed the ground and the cave, building a car park and a museum, which was also entrance to the cave. He lived in the historic De Menil Mansion on the same ground. But being at least as eccentric as the Lemp family, he nearly lost his entire fortune in his attempt to develop the cave.

Today Cherokee Cave is lost. The I 55 was built and the entrance buildings were demolished and the cave filled in. A rumour says, that some remains of the cave still exist beneath the De Menil Mansion.